Have you been putting off your PLM upgrade?  Updating your Agile environment to the latest and greatest isn’t a project that you need to dread.  All projects have ups and downs.  Following  these 5 “STEPS” (Scope Then Schedule, Technical preparedness, Evaluation, Production, and Support) will help to keep you on track and avoid the upgrade upheaval that can occur if you don’t give your upgrade the attention it deserves.

Scope THEN Schedule

Understand the scope of your upgrade before you commit to a schedule.  Don’t start out at a disadvantage by underestimating the amount of time that will be required to fully vet your new Agile system.  Getting the hardware, performing the installation and even the upgrade of the database itself is just the beginning.

A new release of Agile can affect both upstream and downstream processes and may require changes in your network infrastructure.  Make a list of all of your applications and technologies that interact with Agile.  Are you on Active Directory?  Do you push data to an ERP, CRM or other database?  Do you have systems that push data into Agile?  Each of these relationships represents a possible impact point that will need to be tested and verified.

Within Agile, do you have process extensions or custom reports that will need to be updated, reinstalled and validated?  You should have a complete list of all custom code associated with your Agile environment.  If you don’t have this list, now is the perfect time to create one.  Each process or report on your list will need to be tested as part of your upgrade process.

There may be new features or technology available to you as part of your upgrade that you want or need to implement right away.  It may even be what’s driving your upgrade.  Make sure you understand not only how this will impact your overall schedule, but your go live schedule as well.    It’s typically best practice to separate your technical upgrade from your business process changes.   A phased approach will allow you to focus time and energy where it is most needed, when it is most needed.  Your user base and business analysts can make use of your development environment to workshop, test and approve business process changes after go live.  They can then organize a planned rollout on their own timetable without being tied to the separate requirements for the upgrade.

T – Technical Preparedness

Take time to review the latest Agile Capacity Planning Guide to confirm you understand the new browser, java and operating system requirements.  Some applications at your company may require down versions in order to function properly.  Have a plan in place to mitigate conflicting requirements.

Let your upgrade implementation partner know up front if you have specific network, security, hardware or software restrictions or requirements.  These may require special consideration during the upgrade.   Review the Agile Capacity Planning Guide to ensure your requirements are supported by the latest version of Agile.

Running Averify is a crucial preparatory step in your upgrade process.  The Averify process will bring to light critical issues in your database that may prevent a successful upgrade.  There are generic scripts available to fix many of the common errors that Averify will return.  Some errors may require a custom script to be developed.  Run Averify early in the project so that you can identify the errors that will require more time to solve.  This is particularly important if you are performing a major upgrade, such as going from Agile Advantage or 9.2 to the current 9.3 version.  Major upgrades often require changes in your data that should be performed through a business process, such as the release of ECOs or MCOs, to correct data that will not be accepted by the new Agile schema.

E – Evaluation

After the installation, your implementation partner will upgrade your database and load it into one of your future environments.  Your schedule needs to include plenty of time to completely evaluate the success of the upgrade.  This means that you must test functionality and review the data integrity.  You’ll need that checklist of all systems and applications that affect or are affected by Agile.  Each handshake will need to be tested and verified.

You’ll need comprehensive use cases to guide the evaluation process.  Have real users review the use cases prior to the testing phase of your upgrade project.   Most post go live issues can be prevented by making sure that use cases properly represent how your Agile system is being used.  Check all file/attachment activities as well as other permissions to validate that all expected capabilities are functioning correctly.

A thorough review of your historical data is a critical part of your evaluation.  This means doing comparisons between your new and old systems, checking Title Block and Page Two data, Sign-off history and all aspects your data.   Notify your implementation partner immediately of any discrepancies.

Multiple passes of the upgrade process may be necessary to confirm that you have a stable, repeatable process for go live.  Domain Systems, Inc. recommends a minimum of two test upgrades prior to your dry run.  More may be required depending on the complexity of your upgrade. Make sure that your schedule allows sufficient time for each of these iterations.  All issues that arise during any of these passes should be tracked and the resolution noted.  Keep a running list of all configuration changes that you will need to repeat when you are ready to go live.

Finally, formalize your run list and conduct a dry run of the upgrade and final verification process to be sure everything goes smoothly.  This is a necessary step to lock down all action items and their order for your final upgrade.  Track the time it takes to complete each step so that you can accurately estimate the time that will be needed at go live.  A meeting should be held afterwards to evaluate the dry run and confirm that everyone agrees you are ready to move forward into production go live.

P – Production

If your dry run has gone well, you’re ready to do a final upgrade and get your users up and running on the new system.  Have your run list ready of all activities that need to happen, from user notifications and shut down of the legacy system all the way through bringing up your new upgraded system, performing final acceptance testing and sending out the go live announcement.     Have a communication plan in place so that team members can track the progress of the go live and have a good understanding of what will be expected of them and when.

S – Support

Keeping your Agile database and environment healthy after go live requires ongoing support and maintenance.   Make sure that you’re set up for backups and understand how to restore your system should you have the need.   Perform all standard health checks and maintenance on a regular schedule.  Investigate concerns as they arise.  Small issues that seem insignificant could be a symptom of something that might be more problematic down the line.

Working with an experienced implementation partner, like Domain Systems, Inc. can help you to understand all of the moving pieces and lead you safely through to a successful upgrade experience as well as provide ongoing support and maintenance.